Crash Course in Emergency Preparation

My husband and I recently had a crash course in emergency preparation because we happened to be visiting Orlando when hurricane Irma came through. Just to be clear—we were safe and secure, but were unable to travel home before the storm arrived. We were very fortunate and my heart goes out to the many people struggling in hurricane-damaged areas.

What I learned from the experience is the value of planning ahead. I think this is especially important for people living with health conditions and I’m applying these lessons at home to be better prepared for emergency situations.

We were on vacation in Orlando and didn’t have access to a car or people that we knew, but we were in an area where it was safe (as long as we stayed inside) and could get supplies to hold us over. While we tried to get an earlier flight out, we were unsuccessful and so instead took the time to prepare ourselves for hunkering down inside for a day or two. Instead of flying, we could have rented a car. But I was traveling with my motorized wheelchair (which doesn’t fold up) and we were concerned that getting stuck on the road (which many people did) would actually be worse and harder with my RA and health issues.
Here are the tips that I can share from this experience to consider for emergency preparation:

  • Make a plan that makes sense to your situation. For me, it didn’t make sense to try and drive home not only because my motorized wheelchair does not fit into a car but because my body could not handle being stuck by the road or not having a comfortable place to sleep. In our case, because we had safe shelter, it made sense to stay there with some planning ahead and supplies. While I would have rather flown home, it was better not to be stuck either at the airport or on the road.
  • Plan for extra time while sheltering in place. The guidance we received was that we would need to stay inside for about 24 hours for the hurricane. We planned on possibly an extra day or so in case of clean up or safety issues due to hurricane damage.
  • Keep extra medication with you. Thankfully I bring extra medication when I travel and so I had a couple extra days with me. We also happened to have my biologic medicine with me because our trip fell during that day. With biologics you also need to consider refrigeration or keeping the medication cool, so this is something to keep in mind. We flew home three days later than originally planned so I was just about out of medications, which means when we travel in the future I will bring more.
  • Stock up on water, foods with protein, and foods that don’t need refrigeration. We bought more water than we thought we’d need, but ended up using it all. Really, you can’t have too much water on hand because you will eventually drink it. Stocking up on foods with protein (like milk, nuts etc.) is a good idea because these items will keep you satisfied and help you to maintain energy. While we didn’t lose power or refrigeration (thankfully!), we planned for the possibility and had items that could be kept for that time. We also ate the refrigerated foods first so that in case we lost power, they would not be lost to us.
  • Charge those devices. While we were fortunate not to lose power, many people did and we anticipated the possibility. We charged my wheelchair (and I only used it minimally to maximize the batteries) and both our cell phones. I also had my laptop, so we charged that up too. We wanted to have all options possible for communications in case we needed to get help and for arranging our return trip.

Every emergency situation is unique, but it’s important to consider what you may need and plan ahead as much as possible.

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